Google's Moto X buzz machine highlights marketing chops

Google seems to have a marketing plan for its new product launches and its creative right brain appears to be catching up to the number-crunching left side.

Google is portrayed as this company of engineers dorking out on robot cars, open source platforms, data center architecture and advertising algorithms, but there are signs that the search giant is getting the product marketing game down too.

Enter Google Chairman Eric Schmidt with the well-placed product placement. Schmidt at a media powwow in Sun Valley was seen with a Motorola phone that is likely to be the Moto X. Schmidt wasn't exactly hiding the phone and made sure he was seen with it. Variety's Rachel C. Abrams tweeted a Schmidt quote: "I'm not allowed to comment on the nature of this phone."

Well played Mr. Schmidt. You couple Schmidt's move with the Made in America ad for the Moto X over the July 4th weekend and the lead up for a smartphone whose primary claim to fame will be custom colors and personalization and it's clear that Google is getting this tech product buzz machine thing.

Eric Schmidt with the Moto X? Well played marketing Google. Credit: Gary He

Twitter pictures from Gary He reveal that the Moto X looks like pretty much most smartphones out there. Nevertheless, Google has seeded the Moto X to the market that will have people thinking it's the second coming of the iPhone---or whatever device is in for the moment.

Now I'd be willing to put Google's Moto X marketing in the fluke category if it weren't for some semblance of a strategy behind introducing Google Glass to the world. According to Wharton professor Peter Fader, Google appears to be following a skim marketing strategy. The aim is to put Google Glass in the hands of influencers, develop the product and let interest spread organically. Cell phones in the 1980s are a prime example of a skim strategy, said Fader in a Knowledge@Wharton article.

Google may not have much of a marketing choice given Glass isn't ready for the mass market just yet, but the company appears to have some sort of marketing plan. Google has refrained from a big splash marketing campaign for Glass because it could turn out like the Segway launch did. Google is walking a line with Glass and may be getting too much attention. Fader noted:

Google Glass is interesting because it has aspects of both penetration and skim [approaches]. Google has to think that [marketing] decision through, because Google Glass's early PR may be creating more buzz and frenzy than Google wants to create. Google may want to restrict distribution or raise prices to slow things down so Glass can trickle into society.

The real point: Google seems to have a marketing plan and its creative right brain appears to be catching up to the number-crunching left side.

In the big picture, Google's product marketing, hardware focus and increasingly better user interfaces should be worrisome to rivals. Google has the cloud services game down well already. And should Google become as savvy about product design and marketing as Apple, which is struggling with services, the competitive landscape becomes a lot more interesting. Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft all have strengths, but no company has put it all together as hardware, software and services blend together. The race is on to see what tech giant gets there first.